NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Most of the world’s attention is on “fiscal cliff” negotiations in Washington, D.C. And when we’re not hearing about the latest crack in the Republican coalition, financial journalists provide thoughts on the latest batch of U.S. economic data.
The question that many wish to know… “ Is the domestic employment picture improving?”
If a lower unemployment rate is your go-to measure (7.7%), with October registering 146,000 new jobs, then you may feel better about the country’s wellbeing. On the other hand, if you are troubled by the notion that 350,000 employees have left the workforce this past month with the labor participation rate at its lowest levels in 30 years (63.6%), then you may be troubled by the net losses in workers.
Granted, there are plenty of older folks who have legitimately opted to retire. By the same token, government programs (e.g., disability, welfare, etc.) have added millions of people, most of whom have dropped off the unemployment radar.Nevertheless, the U.S. still remains one of the better of the developed world’s investment prospects in the near term. Why? Multi-national corporations domiciled in the U.S. and listed on our exchanges are still mega-profitable. In fact, most of them have created remarkable inroads into emerging markets with their brand name products and services. On the flip side, most of the individual countries that comprise Europe are slipping deeper into recession. Even with ETFs like iShares Germany (EWG) and iShares Austria (EWO) performing splendidly over the previous five months, projections for GDP declines and contraction are nearly ubiquitous across the region. It is true that German multi-nationals sell their wares around the world like U.S. firms, yet the euro-denominated feature of international ETFs like EWG and EWO introduces undesirable levels of portfolio volatility. In fact, I will reiterate from previous commentary… Wisdom Tree Europe Hedged Equity (HEDJ) is the only Europe fund that merits some consideration at this moment. The dollar-denominated ETF gives you access to Unilever, SAP, Bayer and others with global brand recognition, without the likely sovereign debt stress that plagues the region’s fiat currency. In contrast, I’ve been a huge believer in Asia Pacific ETF momentum for months. In my October 1 article 10 weeks ago, “ Asia Pacific ETFs Become Relative Strength Stand-Outs,” I opined that the uptrend was a function of optimism that China’s economy was finally firming.